Honey, it should be a sweet year. 15 recipes for Rosh Hashanah

15 Recipes
Magical honey cake with various honeys in background.
(Stephen Osman / Los Angeles Times)

A quintessential Rosh Hashanah food, use honey to sweeten up any course of your holiday meal.


Jewish holiday meals tend to be rife with symbolic foods. For Rosh Hashanah (which begins the evening of Sunday, Sept. 25), depending on how one identifies, the list can get rather long. A few items prevail at almost every table, most notably apples and honey. While both symbolize many things, among them, apples signify beauty and hopes for prosperity and honey is a metaphor for the sweetness and wisdom of the Torah. Apple slices are dipped into honey (and eaten) to represent wishes that the coming year be sweet and prosperous. This ritual dipping usually takes place at the beginning of the holiday meal, and the apples and honey are often set aside in lieu of the coming feast. But why cast them aside? I like to use one or more symbolic foods in each dish I serve at a holiday dinner. I have focused on honey here, but one can do the same with any of the other symbolic foods that bring meaning to your meal.

For many Ashkenazi Jews, Rosh Hashanah — or any Jewish holiday — without honey cake is inconceivable. What makes this particular recipe magical is that you can make it a week in advance and let the flavors of the honey ripen — yes, like a fine wine! — (try a robust honey like acacia or chestnut) while you make your other holiday preparations.

Far from anything you may have called honey cake in the past, Honeyed Fig And Rye Cake With Brown Butter Frosting starts with a jammy honeyed fig filling sandwiched between two layers of cake made with rye flour. The whole thing is coated with a thin layer of nutty, brown butter frosting, and then topped with more of the fig puree. The frosting and fig jam together sweeten the otherwise no-sugar-added rye cake.

But if it’s not cake you are after, cool, creamy Apple And Honey Sorbet With Pomegranate Sauce with its floral cardamom notes is a delightful way to end a meal — the tart pomegranate sauce lending vibrant color and balancing the sweetness of the apples and honey. Enjoy it as is or alongside Pears In Pomegranate Wine With Honey And Lemon Thyme for a multifaceted, gluten-free dessert (do note that you should start on this recipe at least three days in advance). Crumbly and buttery Wildflower Honey Shortbread Bars can be served with the sorbet or with the pears. They are also a nice dipper for your morning coffee or tea. Honey’d Wine-Soaked Dates (another symbolic food, dates are said to be the honey in the phrase “the land of milk and honey,” a biblical reference to the land of Israel) are another bite-sized option for something to serve alongside the shortbreads.

Honey Challah is totally in the spirit of the occasion, but you may want to streamline the pre-meal rituals and go for an Apple And Honey Challah. It combines two ritual components — apple dipping and challah — into one, and it can free up some table space for other dishes. The four accompanying blessings can be recited without interruption and you may get to the main course a little more quickly.


With the ceremonial components of the meal out of the way, you can transition to Roast Chicken With Thyme And Honey, which is quite flavorful and deceptively simple to prepare. Halfway through the roasting, a honey-lemon, thyme-infused glazed is brushed on the chicken and caramelizes on the chicken and vegetables as they continue to roast. For a bit more savory of an entree, Chicken Thighs With Honey, Olives And Oregano is briny and earthy, reminiscent of Moroccan chicken with preserved lemon and olives only sweeter.

For the vegetarians at your table, Wild Arugula And Orange Salad With Baked Feta, Honey And Za’atar is a flavorful entree option that is also creamy delicious from the slightly heated feta. A Beet And Carrot “Slaw” With Honey And Cinnamon will add color to the plate as well as some crunch and the heady aroma of cinnamon. (Beets and carrots are also symbolic foods.)

Because Rosh Hashanah is a two-day holiday, you may want something breakfast-y to honor the spirit of the day. Honey-Chia Granola over a bowl of yogurt or labneh is a sweet but not-to-sweet way to start your day. Alternatively, Vending Machine Honey Buns will accompany an afternoon cup of coffee or tea just as well as your morning cup of Joe. Sweet, gooey and yum!


Roast Chicken With Thyme and Honey

Jewish cookbook author Leah Koenig uses a mix of fresh herbs and aromatic vegetables to soak up the drippings as the chicken roasts and the honey caramelizes. It's divine!
Time55 minutes
YieldsServes 6

Magical honey cake

This is a honey cake that improves with age. It is well-suited for more robust and unique honeys such as chestnut and acacia.
Time1 hour 15 minutes
YieldsMakes 3 loaf cakes, about 12 servings each

Wild arugula and orange salad with baked feta, honey and za’atar

Baking intensifies the flavor of the feta, making it a good match for the sweet honey and spice that are drizzled on the base salad of arugula, red onion and oranges.

Pears in pomegranate wine with honey and lemon thyme

Pomegranate wine is used as a poaching liquid and then to make a brilliantly hued, sweet-tart sauce for the pears.
Time45 minutes
YieldsServes 6

Carrots with honey, lemon zest and thyme

The astringent fresh thyme, aromatic lemon zest and slightly bitter honey coax a depth of flavor out of the carrots that is unexpected in such a simple preparation.
Time35 minutes
YieldsServes 4

Apple and honey challah

This Rosh Hashana challah is reworked from a long braid into a spiral to call to mind the cycle of life. It also incorporates apples and honey as a symbol of a sweet new year.
Time1 hour 15 minutes
YieldsServes 10

Apple and honey sorbet with pomegranate sauce

Syrup made from fresh pomegranate juice, honey, green cardamom and a splash of Benedictine provides gorgeous color and a backdrop for the sweet apple and honey sorbet.
Time40 minutes
YieldsServes 6 to 8

Honey-Chia Granola

Four ingredients -- oats, chia seeds, butter and honey -- come together in less than an hour to make an earthy, crunchy, only slightly sweet granola.
Time55 minutes
YieldsMakes about 6 cups

Honeyed Fig and Rye Cake With Brown Butter Frosting

Like a fancy Fig Newton, honey and fig jam fills rye cake layers in this dessert frosted in brown butter icing.
Time2 hours, plus 1 hour chilling
YieldsServes 8

Chicken thighs with honey, olives and oregano

Even though some sources say that the honey of the Bible was made of dates, grapes, figs or carobs, dishes sweetened by honey are a frequent feature of Rosh Hashana fare.
Time2 hours
YieldsServes 6

Wildflower honey shortbread bars

Powdered sugar in place of granulated makes this shortbread melt in your mouth.
Time50 minutes
YieldsMakes 25 bars

Honey’d Wine-Soaked Dates

Honey and acidic natural wine play up the complex sweetness of dates in this boozy snack.
Time5 minutes
YieldsMakes 6 pieces

Beet and Carrot 'Slaw' With Honey and Cinnamon

This carrot and beet slaw is crunchy, refreshing and tasty -- and no cooking is required, as beets are delicious raw. Use it to quickly and creatively dress up casual meals.
Time20 minutes
YieldsServes 12 to 14

Honey challah

Brushed with a honeyed egg wash and formed into a circle after braiding, this challah is perfect for Rosh Hashanah. Serve it with honey for dipping.
Time1 hour 30 minutes
YieldsMakes 1 large challah (at least 15 servings)

Vending Machine Honey Buns

Squishy-soft and sweet, these nostalgic treats are your springtime baking project.
Time1 hour 10 minutes, plus 3 hours proofing
YieldsMakes 8 buns